Leave ‘Big Bird’ alone

4 Oct

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Presidential candidate Governor Romney said during the First Presidential Debate that he will eliminate the subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS), if elected. Eric Pfeiffer reports at Yahoo News in the article, Romney: “I love Big Bird”:

“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer. “I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually I like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for [it].” http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/romney-love-big-bird-020014103–election.html

Moi understands that Mr. Romney wants to score a point about being serious about addressing the large national debt. The statement is largely symbolic because the majority of PBS funding does not come from the federal government. There are better ways to make a point about federal government spending.

Moi’s local PBS stations are KCTS Channel 9 and NPR’s KUOW. It had been a few years since moi had been inside the KCTS building as a member of the KCTS Advisory Board. The specific reason for moi’s return was a July 10, 2012 lunch speech featuring PBS President, Paula Kerger. Ms. Kerger provides competent and forward-looking leadership for PBS, but more important, she symbolizes PBS’s commitment to adapting and serving the areas in broadcasting which are under-served, whether it is in content of programing or geography.

Mayer N. Zald of Vanderbilt University writes in the 2008 article, Politics and Symbols: A Review Article:

The relation of symbols, myths and rituals to the functioning of the state and the social system is a venerable concern of social philosophy and social science. In social theory symbols and rituals have been variously presented as a means of evoking symbols of solidarity, and as representing and reaffirming the power and authority of the state, of signalizing the power within the state. Furthermore, symbols can be seen as reaffirming and rewarding the virtues held dear in the polity and as a means of reassuring the citizenry that all goes well. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1533-8525.1966.tb02268.x/abstract

Symbols are very important to what happens in society.

Moi remembers that when she was a member of the KCTS Advisory Board, there was the relentless drum roll in Congress to “defund” public broadcasting. Not much has changed. The reason this post begins with a discussion of symbols is evident when one looks at the PBS funding mix. According to Alternative Sources of Funding for Public Broadcasting Stations:

For public television and radio stations system-wide, the share of funding derived from the federal appropriation to CPB is approximately 15 percent, with larger percentages to smaller and rural stations, and smaller percentages to larger stations.

According to information reported to CPB by public television licensees during fiscal year 2010 (the latest information available),38 individual contributions accounted for 22 percent of system revenue, the largest single source of revenue. The share of revenue for public television from CPB was 18 percent. System-wide, public television revenue sources were as follows:
Source of Funding Percentage of TV System Revenues
Contributions by individuals 22%
CPB (federal appropriation) 18%
State government support 14%
Underwriting by businesses 13%
University support 8%
Foundation support 7%
Other federal grants and contracts 5%
Local government support 4%
All other sources 9%
The revenue received from these various funding sources differs significantly from licensee to licensee. Smaller licensees (those with less operating revenue) and licensees that provide service in small television markets tend to receive a greater percentage of their revenue from federal sources than large licensees and those operating in large television markets.

According to an earlier study by the GAO,39 for public television stations with annual budgets less than $3 million, the federal share of their revenue is approximately 33 percent, while for the largest public television stations the federal share is approximately 10 percent.

Public radio revenue sources are similar to those for public television, with individual contributions again being the largest source of revenue. The share of revenue for public radio from CPB in FY 2010 was 11 percent. System-wide, public radio revenue sources were as follows:
38 Each public television and radio station that receives a Community Service Grant from CPB must file an Annual Financial Report (AFR) or Annual Financial Summary Report (FSR) reporting its revenues and expenditures, and a Stations Activities Benchmarking Survey (SABS) on non-financial activities.
39 GAO Report at 29.

Source of Funding Percent of Radio System Revenues
Contributions by individuals 34%
Underwriting by businesses 19%
University support 13%
CPB (federal appropriation) 11%
Foundation support 8%
State government support 3%
Local government support 1%
Other federal grants and contracts 1%
All other sources 10%
Again, the relative sources of funds differ significantly from licensee to licensee. Smaller licensees and licensees that provide service in small markets receive a greater percentage of their revenue from federal sources than large licensees and those operating in large markets. http://cpb.org/aboutcpb/Alternative_Sources_of_Funding_for_Public_Broadcasting_Stations.pdf

What critics of public television are really saying is that they do not like the symbolism of a public broadcasting system.

Prior to the luncheon, moi sent a series of questions to KCTS. Here are the key questions and the responses:

1.     Any stats that you have about how educational programs help teachers and students as well as parents


See the attached PDF on Raising Readers Success Stories, p. 13 (includes link to full study)

Children who watched SUPER WHY! scored 46% higher on standardized tests than those who did not watch the show.

Here is the link: http://www.pbs.org/about/media/about/cms_page_media/146/raising_readers_a_story_of_success_1.pdf

FROM READY TO LEARN (2005-2012 Report)

Here is the link:


2.     How programs help children of color, low-income children and children in families where English is not the first language


See attached PDF on Raising Readers Success Stories, pp. 5-6 (includes link to full study)

The study found that preschoolers from low-income communities who participated in the PBS KIDS Raising Readers media-rich curriculum outscored their peers who did not participate in the curriculum on all tested measures of early literacy, such as naming letters and knowing their sounds. Furthermore, children who

started out with the lowest literacy skills gained the most, learning an average of 7.5 more letters than children in the comparison group.1 Ultimately, the study showed that utilizing PBS KIDS Raising Readers content for both kids and teachers helps build critical literacy skills to better prepare children from low-income communities for success in kindergarten.

Here is the link:


4.     Any information about how PBS presents diverse views and engages its audience in thoughtful discussion about sometimes contentious topics.

Building on a long tradition of educational value, KCTS 9 and PBS are in the midst of developing new projects that extend the value of public media to teachers and learners both inside and outside of traditional classrooms. With more and more users looking to mobile and web-based platforms, public media is placing greater emphasis on “transmedia” content – content that follows users and learners across devices. For example, a child may watch SuperWHY! via broadcast as well as access its themed learning games through mobile/tablet. At the same time, her teacher might be pulling an interactive literacy game for a classroom Smartboard via PBS LearningMedia and taking an online professional development course on supporting early literacy via PBS TeacherLine.

What’s new with KCTS 9?

·         KCTS 9 is in the midst of rolling out a localized version of www.PBSLearningMedia.org (see below) and will begin producing standards-aligned digital learning assets geared particularly toward the needs of Washington schools. In-house educators have initiated listening sessions with districts and ESDs in the region.

·         This year KCTS 9 will institute a permanent home for its community-generated media projects. Dubbed the 9 Media Lab, this effort will include a comprehensive home for digital storytelling projects, with full time staff support, technical training and production support for community and youth participants, and a full complement of small, consumer grade video cameras, basic audio equipment and desktop editing units. As a preview to the 9 Media Lab, students and educators produced video diaries exploring education reform efforts at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. (Learn more at http://kcts9.org/education/golden-apple-awards/lincoln-center).

·         In connection with its documentary on the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, KCTS 9 teamed up with HistoryLink.org and others to produce a ten unit curriculum on the World’s Fair which is available free, online at http://kcts9.org/education/worlds-fair-curriculum and which won a Heritage Award from the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO).

·         This past year marked the 20th Golden Apple Awards, a ceremony and program that honors outstanding educators from across Washington state.

·         KCTS 9 continues to extend early learning support in Spanish as well as English. Vme, the Spanish language broadcast presented by KCTS 9 in Washington, offers 30 hours/week of high quality educational programming in Spanish – close to ten times the amount of children’s programming on commercial Spanish networks. Vme recently hosted a teacher training and family science night for migrant families in Toppenish.

What’s new with PBS?

·         As referenced above, PBS is ambitiously pursuing a transmedia approach. That means new resources are being developed to work in sync with the broadcast offerings of programs like Dinosaur Train, Sid the Science Kid, Curious George, Word Girl, Electric Company, Martha Speaks and other valuable programs. These new resources include mobile apps for phones, tablets and Smartboards, as well as strong web presence for PBS Kids, PBS Parents and PBS Teachers.

·         PBS LearningMedia (www.PBSLearningMedia.org) is a new online library of over 20,000 learning assets designed especially for use in the classroom. Teachers can search assets by subject, theme, grade level, media type and soon by standard. From STEM to early literacy, arts and social studies, the collection has resources for preK – post12. PBSLM allows teachers to stream content from children’s shows, American Experience, Frontline, NOVA, etc – it also allows them to access focused 2-4 minute clips that resonate with a particular classroom activity. This free service also allows teachers to create class lists to email links for clips, along with related questions to students and parents. (eg. a teacher message might be: “Tomorrow we are going to discuss federal vs. state power. Examine this clip from Freedom Riders and be ready to discuss how the federal government responded to states’ segregation laws during the Civil Rights Movement. Can you find any parallels to the recent Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration laws?”)

·         PBS TeacherLine (www.pbs.org/teacherline) offers a catalog of online professional development for educators. Courses in the areas of literacy, math, science, ELL strategies, instructional technology are available quarterly at competitive prices and teachers in Washington can receive clock hours and graduate credit through several institutions.

·         American Graduate (http://www.americangraduate.org/) is an effort by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that uses media to highlight the challenges of secondary education, examines disparities, and supports efforts at improved graduation rates.

Clearly, for those who value early learning programs for at-risk children, PBS is a valuable instrument of delivery of quality programming for these children. Much of the PBS allocation goes to support under-served rural areas that are not competitive in a for-profit model.

The issue is the symbolism of a public entity model. Many of those who attack the PBS model do not want to admit that there is a value to having some institutions outside the for-profit model. These institutions provide “public” goods which do not readily translate into a for-profit model. One only has to look at the amount of reality television programming currently on television because these programs bring in advertising dollars. Do we, as a society, need more shows like, “Ice-Road Truckers” and “Cajun Pawn-Stars?” Moi supports PBS because it delivers quality, diverse programming, gives voice to under-served communities, provides a forum for the arts, and has children’s programming with high quality learning content. Yes, PBS is a powerful symbol, but the fact that it exists is a symbol of this society’s strength, not weakness.

Mr. Romney, leave ‘Big Bird” alone.

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART©https://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews ©http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda © http://drwilda.com/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: